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Sex in the Workplace - Who's Right?

By June 28, 2008

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You've gotta love the incredible candor of a woman who lets loose with exactly how she feels, either in a blog or an online article, taking full advantage of the intimate nature of the internet. It's like a friend whispering in your ear. And women seem to have a gift for it.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about - two women who have very different takes on sexuality, flirting, and how professional women should conduct themselves in the workplace. A lot more than a generation (or two) separates them.

Laurie Ruettimann over at Punk Rock HR is someone I follow on an ongoing basis for her take on the modern day workplace. She's not uptight about telling you how it is to your face. Recently, Ruettimann went on a tear in "Flirting @ Work: Advice From Your Grandmother Who Thinks She’s Still Hot," all about a woman who had boasted of a career spent maximizing the benefits of sexuality in the workplace. Ruettimann was very harsh, and even harsher comments follow her post.

Betsy Perry is the woman...and you need to know up front that she once worked for Helen Gurley Brown at Cosmopolitan magazine. (If you follow women's issues, pop culture, or you're of a certain age, you already know what that's code for. If not, keep reading.) In "Our Spy On The Upper East Side: Flirting In The Workplace," it's pretty clear Perry thinks well of herself and her escapades over the years; she writes in a style that was once popular and evokes the old Rona Jaffe career gal novels. (No surprise there, as Rona Jaffe herself worked for HGB and wrote about 'sex and the single girl' for Cosmo.) Among other things, she describes a ride in an elevator with then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton who started petting her pooch and ended up with a hand on her shirt. Here's a sample of her prose:

Pretty and smart is still an unbeatable work combination. I know one big city mayor who used to run a high profile company and only wanted pretty girls around his bullpen. The overweight young woman whose bra straps always showed, and who had the unfortunate habit of burping out loud, lasted minutes before being moved quickly to another floor.
Laurie and Betsy. Two professional women separated by time, space, circumstances, life experiences, and opposing views on sex in the workplace. Yet the internet brings them together, and pulls us in as well. They - as well as I - can whisper in your ear and try to convince you who's right. But we won't know unless you leave your own comment. I think you know where I'm leaning. Now it's your turn to whisper back.

For an intelligent and skillfully argued commentary on Betsy Perry's piece, read Courtney Martin's "Flirting is Not Professional Development" over at Feministing.com


June 30, 2008 at 2:10 am
(1) laurie ruettimann says:

It wouldn’t be so bad if she had a pedigree other than working for HGB and having her breasts touched by a former president. IMHO, you have to be successful and important to advocate a pro-sexual-harassment agenda. Ms. Perry is neither super successful nor terribly important, and I want to say, “Meh. Lot of good it did you to have Clinton paw your boobs. Now you’re a blogger, just like the rest of us.” :)

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